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The cardiac consult
Non-invasive measurements of arterial function: What? When? Why should we use them?
  1. Zoe Dong Yang Sun1,
  2. Joseph Cheriyan1,2
  1. 1 Division of Experimental Medicine and Immunotherapeutics, Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  2. 2 Cambridge Clinical Trials Unit, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Joseph Cheriyan, Division of Experimental Medicine and Immunotherapeutics, Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1TN, UK; jc403{at}

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Learning objectives

  • Noninvasive assessments of peripheral arterial function and their relevance to cardiovascular disease and their role in risk stratification.

  • Principles of arterial stiffness and endothelial function measurements.

  • Applications in some epidemiological and interventional studies to date.


Cardiovascular (CV) disease remains the leading cause of deaths worldwide, accounting for 32% of global deaths.1 CV mortality reduction is a key focus of the United Nations Healthy Strategy2 but in order to achieve this, there is a need to improve risk stratification.3 4 Nearly half of all CV deaths are attributable to coronary artery disease (CAD).1 Current risk stratification for suspected CAD uses a pretest probability (PTP) based on the nature of chest pain, gender and age to decide on the subsequent intervention. In those with low PTP for CAD, the Framingham Risk Score (FRS)5 discriminates the risk of CV events well for subsequent primary prevention.6 Individuals with a high PTP can reach a diagnosis of CAD and proceed to optimal medical therapy or invasive coronary angiography depending on symptom severity.5 There is a large group of individuals with intermediate PTP who proceed to further investigations with coronary imaging or stress testing5; however, a positive stress test only identifies less than half7 8 while coronary imaging defines less than a third of those who subsequently develop a CV event.5 7 Therefore, risk stratification with additional assessments may be beneficial. Measures of arterial stiffness and endothelial function provide global measures of arterial health. In this review, we focus on arterial stiffness measured by pulse wave velocity (PWV), arterial wave reflections by augmentation index (AIx) and endothelial function measured by either flow-mediated dilatation (FMD), forearm blood flow or digital reactive hyperaemia.

Arterial stiffness and wave reflections

Pulse wave velocity

The aorta is the principal elastic artery which distends circumferentially during cardiac systole to …

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